The meeting room on Capitol Hill was packed, but for Ted Cruz's presidential ambitions, one person stood out.
At a panel discussion sponsored by pro-Israel group This World: The Values Network on Monday afternoon, the Texas senator aggressively voiced his view that Iran should not gain nuclear capabilities. It was an opportunity for Cruz, an almost-certain presidential contender, to make his case to casino magnate, GOP mega-donor and audience member Sheldon Adelson—whose fundraising decisions are heavily influenced by candidates' support for the security of Israel—for 2016 support.
With typical fiery rhetoric, Cruz seemed to appeal to the influential donor, calling a nuclear Iran the "single greatest national security threat facing both the nation of Israel and the United States." He took a tough stance on the country, telling the crowd that "under no circumstances will the nation of Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons."
"The gravity of this threat cannot be overstated," he said. "I agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that a nuclear Iran presents an existential threat to Israel."
Adelson is visiting Washington ahead of Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday—the controversy surrounding which Cruz called "nonsense." The billionaire, who in 2012 donated $20 million to Newt Gingrich's campaign and later $30 million to GOP nominee Mitt Romney, has kept coy on who he'll support in 2016, meeting with sundry presidential contenders. After Netanyahu's speech to Congress, Adelson will co-chair a fundraiser for possible 2016er Lindsey Graham's political committee, Security Through Strength. Though the South Carolina senator said Adelson's co-chair status isn't an endorsement, it shows Cruz and other presidential contenders they need to step up their game if they want to court the influential donor.